Art in the twenty-first century has left something to be desired. Are landscape paintings in the vein of Thomas Kinkade all the modern age has to offer? When a truly innovative artist materializes onto the scene, he or she is easily identifiable. Robert Bowen, a connoisseur of 80s pop culture, macabre images, and Mickey Mouse, blends the singular elements of his thought process to create the explosion of originality that appears on each of his canvases. With a recent feature in Juxtapoz and exhibitions that have been displayed in L.A., San Francisco, and Brooklyn, Bowen is steadily starting to get the recognition that his exceptional art deserves. One of Bowen's most recent paintings was also featured in an exhibit called Warhol Reimagined: The New Factory. This propensity Bowen has for amalgamating pop culture is rather apropos considering that the San Francisco-based artist makes yearly trips to Disneyland in Anaheim (his own personal Mecca) and often uses the classic characters as the focal point of his work. Behind the Hype talks with Bowen about Andy Warhol, the Bay area, and how to make it as a real artist.
Behind the Hype: When it comes to art, do you adhere to the Quentin Tarantino philosophy for film school? That being “don’t go [to school] and just figure things out for yourself”?
Robert Bowen: As weird as this sounds, I feel like I’ve done both. I went to art school, barely talked to anybody, didn’t make one single connection, learned a few classical techniques, got frustrated, changed majors a few times… and then I left and started my real “education,” which is an ongoing one.
Behind the Hype: Is there anything in particular about San Francisco that you draw inspiration from in your art?
Robert Bowen: It’s just a comfortable place; it felt natural to be here. I grew up in the Bay Area. There are A LOT of very creative people here and seeing that is comforting. You could say that about a lot of places, but this feels like home.
Behind the Hype: If you had to describe your art in three words, what would they be?
Robert Bowen: Blasphemous, sacrilegious, fun; sophisticated yet immature; WORTH THE MONEY! That’s a hard thing to answer.
Behind the Hype: Do you believe that “day jobs” should be avoided at all costs when you’re trying to become an artist or is the torture a source of creativity?
Robert Bowen: If you can avoid them and are serious about making art, avoid them. But people have to eat and pay rent so they are a necessary evil until you are able to live off being creative. Sometimes they can drain all of the creativity right out of you, so if you have to have one, it’s best to find one somewhat art-related.
Behind the Hype: What is the city you would most like to have an exhibit in?
Robert Bowen: Honestly, I’ve never been to Europe, so anywhere and everywhere over there is good with me.
Behind the Hype: If you could liken one movie to one of your paintings, what would it be?
Robert Bowen: At the moment, I’d say Tod Browning’s Freaks and my “Baberaham Lincoln” painting. A critic wrote of Freaks, “It’s more fantastic and grotesque than any shocker ever written.” FANTASTIC and GROTESQUE being the optimal words.
Behind the Hype: If you saw Sofia Coppola on the street in North Beach, what would you shout out to her?
Robert Bowen: Your father made some great movies, and your cousin used to be in good movies. But I like Lost in Translation!
Behind the Hype: As an artist, does Andy Warhol’s acclaim ever bother you?
Robert Bowen: Not at all, I actually envy it; if you can get that much recognition in your life time, go for it.
Behind the Hype: What is the name of a painting that makes you want to weep because it is so bloody transcendent?
Robert Bowen: Dali’s “Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War).” That’s fucking ridiculous.